Hylocereus

The Hylocereus flower is large and white

The cacti of the genus Hylocereus are characterized by being plants of good size, in addition to producing flowers of extraordinary beauty. Although these are unfortunately at night, it is worth staying up to contemplate them, since they also remain open for only a short time since they close at dawn.

Its maintenance is really simple. From my own experience, I can tell you that it is one of the cacti that best resists drought. And I'm not talking about the drought that lasts for days, if not about the one that lasts for months. There is one in my garden and it is never watered, despite the fact that it rains relatively little (about 350mm of precipitation falls per year). For all this, Hylocereus are ideal for those looking for easy plants.

Origin and characteristics of the Hylocereus

Our protagonists are native cacti from Mexico, Central America and the northern part of South America that reach a height of up to 10 meters. They develop stems with ribs on the margins of which we will find areolas. Of these, often more or less short spines sprout depending on the species, as well as their large scented flowers which can measure up to 30 centimeters in diameter.

The fruits they produce are berries between 7 and 14 centimeters long by 5 to 9 centimeters wide., and have white or red pulp. These are suitable for human consumption, and their taste is sweet. The best known is undoubtedly that of the pitahaya (Hylocereus undatus), which is the one that is most cultivated in temperate regions such as Spain.

Main species

It is difficult to catalog them, since there are many varieties, and if that were not enough they have many similarities with the Selenicereus. But do not worry. Next we will talk about the best known species:

Hylocereus costaricensis

Hylocereus costaricensis is a hemiepiphytic cactus

Image - Wikimedia / David J. Stang

It is known as the pitaya of Costa Rica, although it also grows in Venezuela and Colombia. Its stems are triangular and measure up to four inches thick. The flowers are white, highly perfumed, and have a diameter of between 22 and 30 centimeters. The fruit is an ovate or globose berry of magenta color that has a purple pulp.

Hylocereus megalanthus

The yellow pitahaya has yellow fruits

Image - Flickr / Andreas Kay

Known simply as pitahaya, it is an endemic cactus from tropical America, where it lives in places like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela or Ecuador. It is the Hylocereus species that produces the largest flowers: up to 38 centimeters. In addition, it has another very interesting characteristic and that is that it produces yellow fruits.

Hylocereus monacanthus

Hylocereus monacanthus is a white-flowered cactus

Image - Flickr / Andrew Kass

This is a species native to tropical America, specifically Costa Rica, Panama, and Venezuela. Like the other Hylocereus, it grows as a shrub with creeping or hanging stems. The flowers are white and measure up to 17 centimeters in diameter..

Hylocereus undatus

The pitahaya is the most common

La pitahaya is a cactus native to Central America that grows as a hemiepiphyte shrub normally, although it can be a climber if it is provided with a support to climb on. The stems are green, and white flowers with greenish tepals sprout from their areolas. The fruit is a red or yellow berry that measures up to 12 centimeters in diameter.

Hylocereus triangularis (is now Hylocereus trigonus)

Hylocereus triangularis are large-flowered cacti

Image - Wikimedia / Richard C. Hoyer, WINGS

Known as the calyx flower, it is an endemic cactus to the Virgin Islands (in the Lesser Antilles) and Puerto Rico. It grows as a climber up to 10 meters, and It is a plant that produces white flowers of about 25 centimeters. The fruits are berries with an elongated shape, up to 5 centimeters in diameter and up to 10 centimeters long.

Hylocereus care

If you want to grow your own Hylocereus, then we will explain everything you need to know to make them grow healthy:

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They are cacti that need a lot of light, so it is advisable that they be grown outdoors. It would only be better to have them at home if frosts are registered in winter, since they can cause them a lot of damage.

Soil or substrate

  • Flower pot: If you are going to grow them in a pot, use substrates that drain water well. It is important that they are light, and that they do not have a tendency to compact, since these cacti do not resist excess humidity. For this reason, a good option is peat mixed with perlite (for sale here!) in equal parts. Also, you should choose a container that has holes in its base.
  • the garden: It is also necessary that the earth quickly absorb the water. For this reason, they should not be planted in very heavy soils, unless a hole of at least 1 x 1 meter is made, and it is filled with a pumice (for sale here!) for example, which is a porous substrate and ideal for the roots to always remain well aerated.

Irrigation

Irrigation has to be rather scarce. Although they are tropical cacti, they are still plants that store water in their stems, something that helps them overcome droughts that may occur in their natural habitat. Therefore, if they are grown in the garden, they need to be watered only occasionally.

Of course, the situation is different if it is kept in a pot. In this case, he will water at least once or twice a week in order to stay hydrated.

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As the Hylocereus produce edible fruits, it is preferable to pay them with organic fertilizers rather than chemicals, such as guano (for sale here!) or manure in spring and summer. Thus, it is also possible to improve the properties of the soil, or of the substrate, depending on whether it is grown in the garden or in a pot.

Multiplication

Hylocereus multiply by seeds or cuttings

Image - Wikimedia / Anne Jea.

They are cactus that multiply well by stem cuttings in spring. These are cut, allowed to dry for a week in a protected area, and then planted in a pot with cactus soil. If all goes well, we will see that it takes root after about 15-17 days.

Another way to get new plants is sowing the seeds, also in spring. But you have to bear in mind that for your Hylocereus to bear fruit, which are the ones that contain them, there must be another specimen in flower for pollination to take place.

An alternative is to buy seeds, and sow them in pots with substrate for seedlings. Then they are put in semi-shade, and the substrate is kept humid so that they germinate in about 20 days.

Rusticity

It will depend a lot on the species, but in general it is not advisable to expose them to temperatures below 0 degrees. He Hylocereus undatus Yes, it can hold up to -2ºC, as long as it is a little sheltered from the wind and there are occasional frosts.

Uses of the Hylocereus

These are plants with great ornamental value, which can be grown in pots or in gardens. As they have a shrubby or creeping bearing depending on whether they have support or not, they look very good, for example covering lattices or walls.

Although of course, its most popular use is undoubtedly edible. The pitahaya is rich in water, and in minerals as important as iron, phosphorus or calcium, as well as vitamins B, C and E. Therefore, it is ideal to quench thirst but also to alleviate the symptoms of some diseases, like anemia.

Where to buy?

If you want a plant, you can get it here!.

And you, do you have any Hylocereus?


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